Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Swan Lady

Earlier in February, I was lured by Ken Conger into going to Minnesota to photograph Trumpeter Swans and Owls. Our first stop was at Monticello, where the Swan Lady, Sheila Lawrence has been feeding Trumpeter Swans for about 22 years. About 1000 Swans congregate in her backyard that borders the Mississippi River. Next to her home, there is a small park where visitors cant watch and listen to the cacophony of trumpeting swans calls as well as their up-and-down bobbing of heads, part of their courting rituals. At times when a bald eagle flies overhead, calls become synchronized and a "hoooook" sound blast of alarm is heard. Both adults and yearlings are seen and the young ones follow their parents around, but these will chased away before this year's nesting season. As was the case with the Eagle Lady's backyard (see previous post) you cannot miss getting great photos of these majestic birds or the the commonly seen Canadian geese, mallards...and the occasional bald eagle. There was an attempt to stop feeding this year by the state's Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Wildlife Service. This ban was rescinded because the swans did not migrate to Texas and other states as expected by the officials and to the reports of dying birds due to lack of food.

Jean Keene and Sheila Lawrence have helped wildlife despite opposition by wildlife purists, I have named them the "Bird Ladies". I am sure that there are others that by their love of birds, have generated great joy to those who love and photograph nature. I thank them.

The Eagle Lady

In 2008 I had the honor of being welcomed to the home of Jean Keene, The Eagle Lady of Homer, Alaska. I spent about a week there with my friends Ken Conger, David Tuttle and Jerry Pellett. The daily routine consisted of of being at Jean's backyard from 7 AM to about 11 AM to photograph the feeding of bald eagles by Jean helped by her friends and visiting photographers. There is no other place where you can get "eye-to-eye" with and closely photograph these magnificent birds. Jean passed on in January of this year and the feeding of the eagles will probably cease March 25, 2009. She had been feeding the eagles for December to March for more than 30 years. Her feeding of the eagles was going to cease anyway do to pressures from local government and wildlife officials. She took also took care of injured, and while we were there, she just grabbed one with an infected eye and sent it to the rehabilitation center in Anchorage.. It seems that she knew all the eagles and they were not afraid of her. While there, we had the pleasure of taking Jean on her birthday to dinner at her favorite place, the Lands End Restaurant, where she was a regular customer. To our delight, she consumed her favorite drink and a steak while we listened about her eagle stories.
Jean's backyard was the meeting place of "Who's Who" in the world of wildlife photographers. It is likely that most of the incredible photos of bald eagles you see published were taken on her backyard. jean go me my "15 Minutes of Fame" when I received recognition from the National Geographic Society International Nature Photography competition for 2008 for an image of bald eagles in aerial combat over a fish taken from her backyard. This image is to the right. I considered returning to Homer this year, but it would not be the same with Jean.